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My Experience Supporting CPR in Schools

Guest Blogger: Mattea Nicole Clarke, AHA Volunteer and Current College Student

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women—being responsible for every 1 in 4 deaths. This statistic hit much too close to home when my Grandmother, LaVerne Clarke, had her second major heart attack. After undergoing a quadruple bypass surgery and receiving a pacemaker, she decided to take her heart into her own hands by engaging in more physical activity and adapting healthy eating habits. Seeing the incredible changes in her energy, activity, and happiness, I knew Women’s Heart Health was a cause worth fighting for.


In February of 2016, my friend and fellow colleague, Julia Bortolazzo, and I teamed up to be the directors of UCLA Alpha Phi’s annual philanthropy—The Red Dress Gala. This event hosted 450 people who share our passion in supporting the Alpha Phi Foundation for Women’s Heart Health. Together, we raised approximately $40,000 at this event. This year Julia and I decided not only did we want to contribute at our national level, but also at our local community level. In order to accomplish this, we reached out to the American Heart Association team in Los Angeles and partnered with them where we became involved in their events, such as Go Red for Women, to help bring energy and advocacy toward their cause. Additionally, we decided that 25% of our proceeds from this year’s Red Dress Gala would be donated towards the American Heart’s initiative of passing policy to train all students Hands-Only CPR skills prior to high school graduation.


In donating roughly $10,000 to this campaign, we were able to supply Warner Elementary School with enough resources to train every student and faculty member Hands-Only CPR skills. Since 4 out of 5 sudden cardiac arrests outside of a hospital and only 10.4% of victims survive the event, we felt the need to play a role in helping secure resources for people of all ages to be informed and capable to react in the unfortunate case of a cardiac emergency.


At the state level we have an opportunity to take action and support AB 1719 (Rodriguez) and train all California students on Hands-Only CPR. With more hands becoming trained more hearts can be saved.  If you want to get involved, please contact Kula Koenig, Government Relations Director, today!

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A Lifesaving Delivery

Thirty-two states have passed laws or adopted curriculum changes to require hands-only guidelines-based CPR training for all students before they graduate from high school. That means that each year, more than 1.8 million public high schools graduates will have been trained in CPR.

Just over a year ago, the Maine Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto on LD556, a bill that required schools to offer Hands Only CPR training to all students. The rulemaking on the new law can’t be completed until the Maine Department of Education has a Commissioner, but that does not mean that schools shouldn’t start training their students this year. We are hoping that the rule will be strong enough to require the training for each and every student.  If not, we will continue to strive to make Maine’s law and rules strong enough to meet our evidence-based guidelines.

LD 556 did not have any money attached to it, so the American Heart Association in Maine has been busy trying to raise some funds to purchase CPR in Schools kits for local school districts.  We are committed to do all we can to ensure schools have all the resources they need. I can’t talk about all of our efforts, but I can mention some awesome success we have already had.  There are 2 trusts that were set up to enhance the American Heart Association’s mission in Maine. This year, we used the funds from these trusts to purchase 34 CPR in schools kits. Each kit has all the supplies needed to train hundreds of students (10 at a time)!

The kits arrived at our office on Friday and I was there to help lug them to our little storage room. The excitement from the rest of the AHA staff was palpable (even though the boxes were quite heavy). It is so fun to imagine kids throughout Maine learning skills that could someday save a life.

If you’d like to be involved in making sure your local school district is doing all it can to train students in life-saving CPR, please let me know.  As always, I can be reached at




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AEDs in Schools is on the Move

Thanks to a small but mighty group of advocates, a bill requiring all public schools to have AEDs has passed the Senate. We are working with the House to quickly take it up by this fall.

A group of dedicated volunteers have shared their heartbreaking stories of losing a child to sudden cardiac arrest and it has truly made a difference. Families from across the State have come to the State House to knock on doors, have meetings, talk to the press and share their stories with countless legislators to help put a face to this lifesaving piece of legislation.

This bill has been around for over 15 years and I truly believe that thanks to our advocates this is its year! If you have not already joined the efforts and reached out to your State Representative their is still time, email me at and I will give you all the details.

With all of us together we can work to turn the tragic loss of children into a triumph to save hundreds more.  

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Information: The Most Valuable Player

Fall is the perfect time of year to learn more about your elected officials.  November 8, election day will help shape the course for our communities, state and nation for the next several years.  We encourage everyone to vote. 

We are often asked about learning more about elected officials and candidates. 

Some of our tips are:

· Google Search – take 10 minutes and simply "google" your elected official or candidate. 

· For current state lawmakers visit the NC General Assembly website. There you can learn what committees your lawmaker serves on, bills they have sponsored and how they have voted.

· For current local officials, you can normally find information on your local government webpage.

· Today most all candidates and lawmakers have their own webpages that tell about them.

· The State Board of Elections website also has information on candidates. 

You may also consider attending local candidate forums.  Normally you can find this information advertised in local papers, local access news stations and by hosting organizations. 

Getting to know the candidates and your elected officials is an important step to being a skillful and effective advocate.  That knowledge helps you gain greater understanding and will result in improving your ability to build a stronger relationship with them.  We challenge you to take ten – take ten minutes and "google" a candidate – see what you can learn.    

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Research Saved Grace's Life

Our team of nine climbers, all volunteers for a Kenyan orphanage, had begun the journey in a downpour, and the wet equipment, high elevation and ubiquitous beef stew had begun to take its toll on my body. Blurred vision accompanied exhausted muscles that pleaded for rest. But one foot in front of the other, I followed the team to summit. My body had experienced that type of complete physical exhaustion only once before – in June 2011, when I went into Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) at age 18. Read Grace's story of Sudden Cardiac Arrest and how research saved her life.

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AED Advocates Stormed the State House

A group of dedicated advocates came to the State House to lobby for a bill that would require automated external defibrillators in Schools. The advocates are so passionate because they unfortunately lost a child because when they suffered sudden cardiac arrest a defibrillator was not available. You could not have asked for better advocates to storm the State House and share the message.

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart’s electrical system abruptly malfunctions and the heart suddenly stops beating normally. SCA is often confused with a heart attack, which typically happens when blocked arteries prevent blood from reaching the heart’s muscles. There is hope for SCA victims, but time is the enemy. To survive SCA, they must receive immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to increase the blood flow to the heart and brain, along with an electrical shock from a defibrillator to stop the abnormal heart rhythm. For every minute without life-saving CPR and defibrillation, chances of survival decrease by 7 to 10%. Only an estimated 8% of victims who suffer a SCA outside of a hospital setting survive.

The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a simple-to-use device about the size of a laptop computer that is used to shock the heart of a person suffering a SCA to return the heart to a normal rhythm. Treatment of SCA is a race against the clock. The combination of early, immediate CPR and defibrillation can more than double a victim’s chance of survival.


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The 2016 Oahu Heart Walk is just around the corner

The Heart Walk celebrates those who have made lifestyle changes and encourages many more to take the pledge to live healthier lifestyles while raising the dollars needed to fund life-saving research and initiatives in our local community.

Come walk with us Saturday, August 13th at Kapi`olani Park. The festival opens at 6:30 a.m. and the walk kicks off at 7:30 a.m.


This free family event includes:

  • A health fair & preventative screenings
  • Kids' Zone
  • CPR training
  • FREE heart-healthy snacks & beverages!

Create a Community Team!  Each year more than 3,100 people in Hawaii die from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. There’s still time to recruit friends and family to walk with you and raise money for a great cause.

Be sure to stop by the advocacy booth and sign a postcard in support of adding CPR training in Hawaii high schools. If you are interesting in helping at the advocacy booth please click here to email Don Weisman.

We hope to see you on August 13th!

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Trenton Fryman, Kentucky

Trenton Fryman Kentucky

For more than a year, North Oldham High School Class of 2016 senior, Trenton Fryman, has been an outspoken advocate for training students in CPR. Thanks in part to his dedication, this past March, Kentucky became the 29th state to pass legislation that will ensure all students learn this lifesaving skill.

After working as a lifeguard during a summer and receiving CPR certification himself, Trenton came to realize that most of his classmates did not know how to respond to a cardiac emergency. Trenton took it upon himself to coordinate and host three Hands-Only CPR training sessions in his high school, as well as several other small events within his community, borrowing mannequins from local EMS. From there, he applied for and received a grant from a local business to purchase his own CPR mannequins to expand the reach of his classes. 

Trenton has written letters to the editor urging legislators to support CPR in schools training, and has been an excellent example of how easy the training is to complete. In addition, he participated in two Kentucky Advocacy Day press events to demonstrate for lawmakers how quick and easy hands-only CPR is to learn. Trenton is a well-spoken, passionate volunteer and has participated in several TV interviews surrounding both our advocacy and education efforts. 

The American Heart Association was honored to present Trenton with the 2016 Young Hearts Award for his inspiring commitment to CPR education.

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Advocacy Victories in the Commonwealth

We are excited that with the end of our fiscal year that we have a lot of advocacy wins to celebrate. This was a true team effort that could not be achieved without your support of our work, taking action on alerts, being part of lobby day, and you, our dedicated volunteers being tireless advocates throughout the year. 

  • We were successful in leading a campaign to secure a $500,000 appropriation for Stroke Education and awareness; including a specific earmark of $200,000 to support the state Stroke registry.  The $200,000 earmark met the Goal Guidance criteria for Stroke Registry funding.  Not only were we successful in having the appropriation included in the legislature’s budget but we also successfully led a veto override campaign. This happened in July 2015. Just yesterday we were able to secure an additional $620,00 for stroke funding in the final budget that is on its way to the Governor’s desk so we are excited that the momentum of the original funding continues!
  • In the early winter Boston joined almost 90 cities and towns across Massachusetts to set the minimum age at 21 and with Boston joining the movement more than ½ of the population live in cities and towns where 21 is the minimum age.  In May we were able to add to the local 21 push when the cities and Towns of Brockton, Carver, Chelsea, Essex , Falmouth, Gloucester, Hadley, Halifax, Marblehead, Norfolk, North Adams, North Attleboro, Plainville, Shelburne, Southampton, Sunderland and Tewksbury cumulatively representing 324,199 residents were confirmed to have passed T-21 policy. In June the Cities/Towns of Great Barrington, Lowell, Stoughton and Worcester passed T-21 legislation adding an additional 317,365 Massachusetts residents living in communities that now have a minimum legal age of 21 to purchase Tobacco products.  These additions mean that 121 of the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth have T-21 laws. We are confident that this momentum will help us pass the Statewide Tobacco 21 bill by July 31st!
  • For a number of years we have been working on Complete Streets to secure necessary funding and policy language so that we can create healthier communities for all of our residents. I am excited to say that the Massachusetts state Transportation Improvement plan will be dedicating a total of $110 million dollars over the next 5 years to programs and projects to improve access to safe bicycle and pedestrian programs that will help people who walk, bike, run and roll do so more safely.  This campaign involved not only working to appropriate the funds but also to influence the Capital Improvement Plan to ensure that all modes of transportation are considered in road improvement design.
  • Lastly we were able to secure a win for our local CPR in Schools efforts. Unlike most other states, nearly all curriculum decisions are decided at the local level which means that we have to work with local school Superintendents and School Committees to implement CPR Graduation requirements in school districts across the State.  This particular win reflects the passage of policies in the Worcester, Springfield and the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional school districts.  These three school districts represent an additional 3,169 High School Graduating Seniors who will learn the fundamentals of CPR before they graduate.  In all, we have worked with 2 additional districts that require some form of CPR training before students graduate with an overall total of 5,317 students trained each year.  We have also identified an additional 26 school districts with over 12,000 annual graduates to focus on in FY 16-17. This is a particularly satisfying win because it took a true team effort to get this down, and without our volunteer’s dedication and outreach we would not be making the progress that we are!

 Lastly as some of you know our legislative session is not over yet, we have until July 31st at midnight to get a few more policies passed. We are working towards:

  1. Statewide Tobacco 21
  2. Healthy Vending in State Buildings
  3. $6 million for Healthy Food Financing
  4. A Comprehensive Stroke System of Care
  5. Quality Physical Education
  6. AEDs in all Public Schools


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Learning CPR in Schools

Nearly 383,000 people have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year, and only 11% survive, most likely because they don’t receive timely CPR. Given right away, CPR doubles or triples survival rates. Teaching students CPR could save thousands of lives by filling our community with lifesavers- those trained to give sudden cardiac arrest victims the immediate help they need to survive until EMT’s arrive. Sudden cardiac arrest can happen any place, at any time. If you suffer sudden cardiac arrest, your best chance at survival is receiving bystander CPR. But most do not.

Fortunately, Connecticut is one of thirty-four states that requires CPR training to be part of the public school curriculum. Thanks to passionate advocates like yourself the CT legislature passed this law in 2015 and school districts state-wide are now gearing up to meet the July 1, 2016 requirement. Teaching students CPR before they graduate will put thousands of qualified lifesavers on our streets and into our neighborhoods every year!

As part of national CPR and AED Awareness Week (June 1-7), Dr. Ed Cronin, who is an attending electrophysiologist at Hartford Hospital, an assistant professor of medicine at UCONN, and a member of the Connecticut and Western Massachusetts American Heart Association Board of Directors was interviewed by WTIC. To listen to the short interview click here and scroll down: 

Awareness of CPR may only be celebrated one week out of the year, but for students who learn how to perform CPR, it is a skill that will last a lifetime, and maybe save a life as well!

To learn more about emergency cardiovascular care, click here:!

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